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August 27, 2000

To the Editor:

I appreciate Carl E. Schwarz's generous remarks (Correspondence, Book Review, Aug. 20) about my review (Book Review, Aug. 6) of Darden Asbury Pyron's biography, "Liberace: An American Boy." I thank Mr. Schwarz for correcting my misstatement about Bowers vs. Hardwick. There was no conviction; it was the legality of the arrest that was the subject of appeal.

Schwarz, however, goes on to claim that I "seriously" misstated the "state of gay rights in the United States." But he proceeds to document precisely what I was referring to: that existing laws throughout the country still make possible the imprisonment of gay consenting adults involved in private acts. He writes: "Fewer than a dozen states have retained anti-sodomy laws since Bowers." I do not find cause for celebration in the fact that so many states still retain such laws. Schwarz adds: ". . . application of the Equal Protection clause makes the selective enforcement of Bowers-type laws against homosexual conduct highly problematical especially when that conduct occurs in private places."

Even if conviction in such cases is "problematical," the simple act of arrest under such grounds is capable of destroying lives involved. Such arrests result in humiliating court appearances, exorbitant costs and accusations. I see no cause for complacency there.

Jon Davidson, supervising attorney of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, an organization that fights for gay rights in the courts, points out further insidious effects created by the "problematical" laws: On the assumption that they make gay people potential felons, the mere existence of those laws is often cited in court cases as justification for denying gay people custody of children, equal employment rights and professional licenses.

Beyond all that, history reveals that dormant laws have often been aroused into horrific action.

John Rechy

Los Angeles

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